Arsenal fans reaching boiling point with anti-Stan Kroenke sentiment
Stan Kroenke is not a good owner, things will deteriorate from here and the only way for Arsenal fans to liberate themselves from the cycle of misery imposed by his rule to is find another club. That's the cheery message coming from St. Louis, Missouri, the last city Kroenke antagonised with his running of a sports club.
On Wednesday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published a piece in solidarity with Arsenal supporters, who are planning to protest against the directionless and unambitious hierarchy at the club during Saturday's home game against Norwich. As a precise analysis on what is wrong with Kroenke's management model, and a warning about what could be to come, it demands to be read in full.
What emerges? A culture of an acceptance of mediocrity which will resonate with those supporters planning to join the protest led by three of the biggest fans' groups: Black Scarf Movement, Red Action and Arsenal Supporters' Trust. Banners reading "Time for change: Arsenal is stale, fresh approach needed" will be held up after 12 minutes and 78 minutes -- highlighting the fact it is now 12 years since Arsenal last won the league.
For supporters of most other teams, some on the brink of extinction, perhaps others already relegated this season, this probably seems like the worst kind of entitlement. Arsenal have twice won the FA Cup in the past three years and enjoy Champions League football every year. Most supporters would rip your arm off for that kind of consistency from their club.
And yet, those Arsenal fans on the brink of insurrection do have a point. They do pay the highest prices in football and once again have seen too little investment in the club's roster, resulting in another season in which they have failed to mount a title challenge, despite the most favourable conditions in many a year. It is not that Arsenal do not enjoy a privileged status in football, it is that there is no sense of any ambition driving at the club at the highest level, no sense of any forward propulsion, beyond the continual mission to exploit loyalty for financial gain.
Kroenke takes his money out of the club, doesn't engage with supporters and never gives any impression that he is anything other than satisfied with the current situation -- a marked difference to the attitude of supporters, for whom perpetual fourth-place finishes and Champions League last-16 exits have grown stale. There is a palpable sense of drift. Arsenal fans know what it means to be "under the Kroenke black cloud," to borrow a phrase from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Many of those protesting will not be doing so only in a fit of pique at failing to win the league -- although this season's disappointment has clearly brought things to a head. They will do so as a result of increasing alienation with the club that they have supported all their lives. Things were different with former vice-chairman David Dein, who came across as a genuine Arsenal fan, but a divide between those who run the club and those who support it has been widening for years now.
The moment which summed it up best came in 2012 when former Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood told supporters at that year's AGM, "Thank you for your interest in our affairs," as if they were there on work experience rather than representing the very lifeblood of the club. Your affairs?
Disenchantment has spilled over this season and manager Arsene Wenger has bore the brunt of it. Some of the abuse he has suffered has been disgusting -- one thing you can't accuse the manager of is not caring about a club to which he has dedicated the best part of his professional life. It is not Wenger's fault that his higher-ups refuse to impose the change which is now required. But his role in Arsenal's malaise cannot be ignored.
Let's be honest: a good portion of the sentiment for change will be directed at Wenger. Unlike Kroenke, he fronts up, is the figurehead of Arsenal and thus the focal point for fan frustration. As long as things remain respectful, it is absolutely legitimate for supporters to call for his departure as well as that of Kroenke. Whatever your view on the matter, fans have the right to be heard.
The answer from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is unconscionable to English ears: "No one is doubting your allegiance, Arsenal fans. But your signs and chants won't change a thing. Realise you don't have to stay. You didn't sign up for this. Some advice from a city scorned: Find another club."
That is simply impossible. The best that supporters can hope for is to improve the club they have, and the kind of action taken this weekend can apply the right kind of pressure, even if it ultimately is ignored.
Tom is one of ESPN FC's Arsenal bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter @tomEurosport